The New Orleans Police Department on Thursday fired a 25-year veteran of the force who manhandled a teenage girl last year as she was being processed into the city’s juvenile detention center — an incident captured on surveillance video.
The officer, Terrance Saulny, lied about using profanity during the encounter, violating department rules regarding truthfulness and the use of unauthorized force, Superintendent Michael Harrison said.
“There is no place in the department for officers who choose to mistreat members of the public and lie about their behavior,” Harrison said in a statement.
Saulny’s attorney, Ted Alpaugh, said his client immediately appealed the termination to the Civil Service Commission. He called Saulny “a good cop.”
“I believe he’ll be vindicated,” Alpaugh said. “I think if anybody who knows what they’re looking at sees the (video), they wouldn’t think” he used excessive force.
The incident happened in September as the 16-year-old girl was mouthing off to police at the Youth Study Center.
Saulny, who weighs 230 pounds, pushed the girl into the side of a holding cell, placed his forearm in her neck area and “struck the juvenile twice with metal 4-point restraints,” said Susan Hutson, the city’s independent police monitor.
“It is important, in these times of questioning modern American policing, that we be transparent, fair and responsive to the community,” Hutson said in a statement.
Hutson and Simone Levine, the deputy police monitor, said they disagreed with investigators’ decision not to present the case to the District Attorney’s Office for potential prosecution.
Tyler Gamble, an NOPD spokesman, said the department’s Public Integrity Bureau worked alongside FBI agents in reviewing the video and other evidence. The video showed the officer had used excessive force, Gamble said, but the investigation “determined there was not enough probable cause that a crime was committed.”
Footage of the incident was captured on surveillance video at the Youth Study Center and on the body-worn camera of another police officer who apparently had transported the girl to the lockup. The authorities did not immediately release the video, citing the need to redact the image of the juvenile.
Saulny was not required to wear a body camera in his assignment at the Youth Study Center, but Hutson on Thursday called for all officers assigned to the juvenile lockup to begin wearing cameras. She also recommended those officers be “specifically trained in verbal de-escalation, treatment of a juvenile and use of force.”
Gamble said the department is considering the recommendations.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.